Often it is my responsibility to lead a company to the solution that best fits their needs, even if the solution isn’t a custom website built by 360 Webmazing. If I don’t lead them to the right solution, I am putting a long term relationship at risk.
Pros and Cons of Custom Websites vs. Templates
With a custom website, you are allowed and encouraged to show your company culture and personality through design. A unique design can be presented, revised and built into a custom template for your website. Yes, I said template because even custom sites have a template; it is just built from scratch rather than from a box. Think about your grandma’s chocolate cake, it just wouldn’t be the same if it were out of a box.
Scalability, Flexibility, Manageability
A custom website is always expandable. You can always call up your web developer with a hair-brained idea and usually they can come up with a way to make it happen. We like to call this making your website do cartwheels. Custom features can be built in to make your website, and sometimes your business, easier to manage. You aren’t going to be stuck in a box when it comes to events, members only sections, project portfolios, or any other idea you or your developer have that would show just how cool your company is.
Up-to-Date Code and SEO
A solid web development firm is constantly updating their code and finding new ways to increase the longevity of the sites they build. They are on the lookout for new SEO best practices as they roll out from Google.
Support From Skilled Developers
With a firm that builds custom websites you will have access to the support of skilled developers, usually via your account service person, who code from scratch. They will be able to troubleshoot and fix bugs with little to no hesitation (maybe not for free) and are rarely stumped by a challenge.
Note: Make sure the firm you choose for a custom site has developers on staff rather than hiring freelancers or outsourcing their development.
More Expensive and Takes Longer to Develop
Custom websites are built to the business owner’s specifications and are adaptable to the company’s needs. They often are more expensive and take a bit longer to develop. If your budget is under $3,000 and you want to work with a professional firm, you will most likely end up with a slightly customized template that incorporates your brand and information about your company. For a budget of $3,000 to $5,000 you will get a more customized site, although the site might not contain much functionality depending upon the size and number of pages. For a custom website you will want to expect to start at $5,000+ based on the number pages and functionality required.
The timeframe for development is typically about 4 weeks longer than that of a template, close to 12 weeks with a responsive client/firm relationship. However, this can save immense amounts of time in the future, because your site will be easier to manage and will do what you expect it to do.
Design: What You See is What You Get
With the design of most templates, what you see is what you get. You can change the colors and maybe the fonts but the layout is pretty set. If you really love the layout and design and do not have a desire to change it, a template could work in your favor. Just know that someone else out there may have a website that looks just like yours.
Less Expensive & Shorter Development
Start-up companies and DIYers often need a website up rather quickly and on a low budget. Website templates and platforms like WordPress.com, Squarespace and Wix are often plug and play. While there is certainly a learning curve, someone with less knowledge of how websites work can put information and photos in to get a website up rather quickly. These platforms also offer hosting, so there is little need to understand the ins and outs of how domains and hosting work together.
With less development comes a lower budget. Web development firms often have an option for utilizing a template they have built in house. If you are working with a professional, they can help make sure your template is up to date and there are less hurdles for you to face in the not so distant future. This option is a little safer than just grabbing a template off the internet.
For companies who simply need to share information about their company and maybe post a blog or two once in awhile, a less customized site may be totally up their alley. For a company who needs the piece of their website to talk to each other, or do cartwheels, this may not be the best option. Often the developer of a theme had a specific purpose for the theme and customizing it can be quite difficult. For example, it is nearly impossible to make a theme mobile friendly that was not intended to be mobile friendly in the first place. If you are ok with giving up some flexibility, a template be an option for you.
Supported Well or Not Supported at All
If you are working with a firm that developed a template in house and is utilizing it to help good people with lower budgets, you will have access to support from skilled developers. When working with SquareSpace or a WordPress template that you snatched up from the internet, you will likely never have access to the person who built the theme to ask questions or request support. Likely, a template that you purchase online will have features that you may not need. These features can bloat your website and bog it down. When working with a firm who supports the template they built they will most likely take out items that can slow your website down.